By Tom Westcott.
29 November 2014:
Turkey’s continued commitment to flying to Libya, at a time when few other international airlines are prepared . . .[restrict]to go to the country, is keeping their carriers firmly in the lead for airfreight operations.
Turkish Airlines, which restarted cargo operations to Libya in September after a two-month break, is now running almost daily charter flights, with a high frequency for November. A spokesman said that the dominant cargo type remained textiles.
ULS Airlines Cargo, another company based in Turkey, also carries airfreight to Misrata Airport on almost a daily basis. “Now is high season and there are a lot of exports from Turkey to Libya,” a spokesman for ULS told the Libya Herald. “We have been flying to Libya for six years and it is a very good market for us.”
Operations were solely charter flights at present, for private businesses not for the government, he said. “Textiles are our main cargo, since Turkey exports clothing and textiles to many countries, as well as construction materials, some furniture and, less frequently, foodstuffs.” Although most flights were direct from Turkey, the airline occasionally operated charter flights from Europe to Misrata, he said.
The ULS spokesperson estimated that, based on all the flights, every day Libya was receiving in the region of 120-150 tonnes of cargo from Turkey.
MNG Airlines is the only Turkish airline operating charter flights to Tobruk as well as Misrata. Using an Airbus A300-600, it makes up to four journeys per week during the peak season.
“Now is peak season for cargo, but not for Libya,” MNG’s head of the commercial department Hasan Tasus said. “It’s not a big season at the moment because of the security situation.” He added that this fluid and sometimes difficult situation meant flying to Libya could be unpredictable, requiring constant monitoring and, “from time to time” flights had to be “held.” All were operated under the approval of MNG’s insurance company, he said.
The company had seen a marked decrease in airfreight imports to Libya since the revolution, Tasan said. Despite this, it continued to serve the country with general imports, including textiles, footwear and glassware.
Both Turkish Airlines and ULS are also considering operating cargo flights to Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport. However, Turkish Airlines said it still had no start-date for such operations and ULS said it was awaiting feedback from its insurance company about adding Mitiga as a destination.
The recent airstrikes targeting Tripoli’s only functioning airport will undoubtedly cast further doubt on insurance companies willingness to write cover for any international airlines to fly there.
It is not only in airfreight that Turkey is reaping the benefits of sticking with Libya. Turkish Airlines restarted daily passenger operations to Misrata from Istanbul at the end of October. Demand has been heavy so it has allocated up to four aircraft (A320s and A340s) to the route. [/restrict]